Tour de Pines 2021, day 1: Cranberries and ice cream sandwiches

We biked nearly 50 miles in southern Burlington County.

This is my third year exploring New Jersey’s giant Pine Barrens ecosystem and preserved open space, thanks to the Tour de Pines bike rides organized by the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. It’s back as group rides this year, though over four days instead of the five pre-COVID.

And what a beautiful day for a ride! Sunny, dry, maybe a bit cooler than necessary.

Today’s ride was actually three — a short, medium and long option on quiet, pretty flat roads in Burlington County. We went for the medium ride, so a loop of nearly 50 miles from the Pinelands Preservation Alliance headquarters in Southampton to its Pinelands Adventures operation by Wharton State Park and back.

The Pine Barrens is in part cranberry country but somehow that hasn’t really been a part of my Pinelands experience. So I hit the brakes when we passed that semitruck with piles of cranberries peeking through the rim of the white container. The back end was still in the barn, being loaded with more berries.

Apparently a normal day is hauling 10 loads of berries to the nearby Ocean Spray receiving facility in Chatsworth. Will any end up in my freezer when I do my annual Thanksgiving stock-up for the year?

And how’s this for cool: a tour of a cranberry farm. You can do it with Pinelands Adventures so I’m hoping COVID is chill enough next year that they resumr

Pinelands Adventures is also all about kayak and canoe rentals and trips along the Mullica River, also on my list (never mind that I really can’t paddle in a straight line). Maybe I could combine it with renting one of these nine cute log cabins on the banks of Atsion Lake at Wharton State Park? They also happen to be essentially across the street from Pinelands Adventures.

The lake is cedar water, which is brown, acidic and apparently impossible to get out of your swimsuit. So leave the good one at home.

And what a pleasant surprise at its office/rest stop: ice cream sandwiches for us. Yes, I’m a sucker for ice cream on a bike ride (hello, Sourlands Spectacular), no matter how much it is melting.

Here’s today’s route. Should we have stopped at the winery just off the route? Sort of an homage to our adventures in the Finger Lakes many years ago? Even though we still had 20 miles to go and the ride ended with soft pretzels and cold beer?

Author: alliumstozinnias

A gardener (along with the Brit) who has discovered there is more than hybrid tomatoes. And a cyclist.

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